Archive for November 3rd, 2012

While trying to find something to divert my attention away from the last few anxiety-filled days of the current political campaign (there’s a lot I would like to say about this but I have pledged to keep my politics out of this– for now), I turned to one of my favorites sites, Luminous Lint,  once more.  It has a treasure trove of incredible photography of all sorts and I always quickly find something there that captures my imagination.  One of my favorite things there is to see  images of people from from the earliest days of photography, the 1840’s and 1850’s, just to study them a bit, to see  how these people who lived in a time so unlike the time in which we currently dwell might be similar to us.  It puts a face on history for me, much more so than formal  or even folk portraiture.

The  photo above on the right  is good example of this.  Found in a section that was a collection of early occupational daguerreotypes (click here to see the whole group) that depicted people of the time with the tools and dress of their trade, it is an image of a General Thomas Jesup from around 1847.   Shown with his sabre and the uniform and hat of his rank, the photo tells me so much more than this official portrait shown here on the left.  He is so much more rounded as a  human.  His eyeglasses and the his gaze toward the camera give him a more shrewd and studious look making me think that while he was a man of action, he was also a thinker, a planner.  And indeed he was.  He was the Quartermaster General for 42 years until his death in 1860 at the age of 72, making arrangements for the acquisition and delivery of supplies to our troops over the quickly expanding nation.

There’s something extraordinary for me in  looking at a photo like this and seeing the  actual face of someone who fought in the War of 1812 and was a contemporary of someone like the legendary Andrew Jackson.  I feel so much more connected to history in being able to see his actual demeanor before the camera.  It really does take my mind from the present time, letting me live for moments in that bit of history rather than in the history we are currently making. And sometimes that little journey back in time is a relief…

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